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Dec 15 2015
Kodiak Historical Society Welcomes New Archivist, Says Farewell to 40-Year Veteran PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 15 December 2015
alice.jpgPicture of Alice Ryser. Via Kodiak Historical Society

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

If there’s one thing that long-term Kodiak Historical Society archivist Alice Ryser and her successor have in common, it’s a passion for the job. The Kodiak Historical Society operates the Baranov Museum in the Erskine House.

Now, Ryser is passing her job along to another person who considers cataloging the past both a profession and a hobby. KMXT invited the history buffs into the studio to talk more.
1.37 MB | Download MP3 | Open in popup

Alice Ryser has been at the Baranov Museum for 40 years, and she says it’s never felt like work.

She started volunteering at the store in 1975 and became an archivist in the early 80s.

“I have learned so much history. From people and photographs and articles, I mean, it’s just overwhelming what I’ve learned. You know, it never was like a job because I love doing it, but I suppose I will miss working with photographs.”

But when asked what she might do when she retires… 

“I have a lot of photographs in my collection at home that need to be archived and scanned and put on CDs. They’re personal photos. I have some negatives that go back from 1919. Pictures of my mother.”

You just can’t separate an archivist from her archive. New recruit Daria Safronova-Simeonoff joined the staff last week. She says documenting history through objects, from photographs to furniture, is less of a job and more of a calling. When she stopped by KMXT last week, she said it was her first day in her new position.

“I think that somehow life leads us through different circles and then brings us to where we should be. Today is actually a very special day for me, because I have worked a whole day where I wanted to work.”

Safronova-Simeonoff is originally from Saint Petersburg, Russia, and currently works part time as an archivist at the Saint Herman Theological Seminary, and she’s not about to give that up.

She said not only will she fill both positions, but she also lives at the seminary, which means she can hit the books at all hours of the night. But Safronova-Simeonoff doesn’t mind. In fact, it’s the opposite. Her goals require a lot of hard work.

“[An] archivist is the one who just catalogs things, but an archivarius is the one who takes care of the collection of the knowledge and passes it on, so I do have an ambition and I can only hope that I can achieve that, to grow from an archivist at the Baranov Museum and also at the Seminary to an archivarius.”     

She said she’s especially interested in the late 19th century to the turn of the 20th century and feels a connection to that time period here in Kodiak.
“There is this special vibe of history in Kodiak, and the moment you get off the ferry, maybe not as much at the airport, but I first appeared in Kodiak on the ferry, and immediately you see the museum and you see the church, and I was hooked right there.”
She said the history of the Erskine House and the objects inside fascinate her. If you want to drop by with a question or just to meet her, her hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.                                           
Dec 14 2015
Mayor Hints at Additional Investigations into Pletnikoff Encounter PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 14 December 2015
Jay Barrett/KMXT
At Thursday's Kodiak City Council meeting, Mayor Pat Branson read a statement in regards to the use of excessive force allegations against three Kodiak Police officers almost three months ago during a contact with Nick Pletnikoff, an autistic young Kodiak man. 

In Branson's statement, for the first time, it was revealed there may be more than one investigation underway.

“As far as the September 16th incident that has happened, investigations are going on. We're all aware of that. And investigations take time,” Branson said. “There's more than one entity doing the investigation.”

An e-mail to Branson and City Manager Aimee Kniaziowski asking about the additional investigations went unanswered by Branson. Kniaziowski responded that the city had only one investigation ongoing, that being done at the request of the city by former Kotzebue Police Chief Greg Russell, now a consultant on the Kenai Peninsula. When pressed about other entities who may be conducting investigations, Kniaziowski referred the question to the city's attorney.

At Thursday's meeting, Branson responded to online comments from citizens speculating why it was taking the city so long to release information about the encounter, where the 28-year-old Pletnikoff was handcuffed and pepper sprayed while checking the family's mail on Stellar Way.

“I want to assure you that there will be, and is, no cover-up by the city in this incident,” said Branson.

Branson said the city could have communicated with the public better, but maintained that the city is happy to answer citizens' questions.

“I would encourage the public to ask questions no matter what the topic might be, at any time. The city is totally transparent,” Branson said. “And regardless of the findings of this case, we will assure the public of any wrongs to be corrected.”

The mayor and council then held an executive session to discuss with the city attorney the public records litigation facing the city over the Pletnikoff case. Invited were the manager, deputy manager, city clerk and police chief. No action was taken when the council reconvened in open session.
Dec 14 2015
Members of Public and KIB Assembly Speak on Governor's Budget Plan PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 14 December 2015
Kayla Desroches/KMXT

Governor Bill Walker presented a budget plan Wednesday that proposed implementing a personal income tax, decreasing the Permanent Fund Dividend, and changing the oil tax credit system, among other possible solutions for Alaska’s multibillion dollar budget deficit.

KMXT took a few minutes before the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly work session last week to ask people in the room what they thought about the governor’s proposal.

1.73 MB | Download MP3 | Open in popup

Dec 14 2015
St. Paul Schools Face Declining Enrollment PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 14 December 2015
1.97 MB | Download MP3 | Open in popup

St. Paul students line up to stick their hands inside “blubber mitts” (Crisco-lined plastic bags) to learn how marine mammals stay warm in the cold Bering Sea. (Photo by John Ryan/KUCB) 
John Ryan/KUCB
St. Paul School Struggles To Keep Its Students School enrollment in the Pribilof Islands has been shrinking in recent years, along with the islands’ fishing economy. KUCB’s John Ryan visited the school on St. Paul Island. He sent in this profile of a small school struggling to teach and keep its students.  
Connie Newman wears many hats at the St. Paul School. In the predawn gloom, she greets students as they get dropped off outside.  
Newman: “Morning, Sienna. Good morning, Fiona.”  
“Good morning!” the girls said. 
Newman is superintendent of the Pribilof School District. I spoke with her while she was sweeping the St. Paul school gym.  
“Due to declining enrollment, we reduced staff, and so I assumed the responsibilities of the building principal in addition to the superintendent [and occasional gym sweeper?] Yeah.”  
St. Paul’s gym doesn’t see as much action as it used to. This is the first year the St. Paul Sea Parrots haven’t been able to field a basketball team.  
“Basketball’s a big deal. We had a very good team, in fact, last year,” she said. “But even then, it’s a coed team, boys and girls. This year, no, we do not have enough.”  
Some families have left the island; others have sent their kids to boarding schools in other parts of the state.  
“The course offerings are pretty limited here,” Newman said. “We can't offer a lot of the art and music.”  
Ryan: “Do you like going to school here?”  
“To be honest, not really,” said Carley Bourdukofsky, an eighth grader. She was on a school field trip to look for sea lions.  
“You don't really learn that much. I’d like to go to Mt. Edgecumbe next year,” she said. 
That’s a boarding school in Sitka. Ninth grader Sonia Merculief says she transferred to a boarding school in Galena this fall.  
“It was a better education. It’s kinda more strict and stuff. It’s more learning, more opportunities,” said Merculief
She says she got homesick, so she came back. But she wants to try again.  
“I'm going to ask my mom this time if I can reapply for next semester,” she said.
“But you don’t think you’d get homesick again?” KUCB asked. 
St. Paul does have course offerings that students can’t get anywhere else. Like Aleut language classes. And the week of special science classes that brought students out looking for sea lions in the surf of the Bering Sea. Every year, scientists descend on St. Paul to teach about its biology and traditions. The week of classes is largely paid for by the local fishing industry.  
Carley Bourdukofsky says she likes that part of the school year.  
“I like to learn different things and new things about our island,”  Bourdukofsky said.
By lots of measures, the St. Paul School is struggling.  
Four out of five St. Paul students don’t meet state standards for English or math. That’s according to the new Alaska Measures of Progress tests.  
A study done for the legislature this year found that the Pribilof district would have to boost salaries by 57 percent to attract and keep highly qualified teachers. That’s because of the high cost of living out in the middle of the Bering Sea. A box of cereal can set you back nearly $9 at the Alaska Commercial store on St. Paul. A bag of pretzels? Nearly $10.  
Most [four out of five] students on the island are poor enough to qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. But like many small schools in Alaska, St. Paul doesn’t serve lunch. It did offer snacks to kids last year. But Connie Newman says that grant ran out.  
“That was the Alaska Grown grant, which was discontinued due to the budget,” she said.
Newman says she has a great staff and supportive families on the island, but declining enrollment means less state funding.  
“We still have the same costs even though we have fewer kids,” Newman said. “I mean, you're talking heat and lights. No respite.”  
Newman says a driving force behind the declining enrollment is something the school can’t do much about: people leaving the island in search of a more stable economy.  
“Our fishery has really been suffering, and we are allowed to take less and less halibut,” Newman said.  
The island’s economy revolves around halibut fishing. In the Bering Sea, more halibut are caught accidentally and thrown away by Seattle-based trawlers than the local halibut boats catch on purpose.  
“We had one of our big families, they just took their boat and left last year,” she said. “I'm sure there'll be more if it continues.”  
The school got a bit of a reprieve this month from Seattle of all places. Scientists with the International Pacific Halibut Commission announced that there’s enough halibut in the eastern Bering Sea to allow a substantially larger fishery than last year. Scientist Ian Stewart said the bycatch, or accidental catch, of halibut dropped this year.  
“All in all, quite good news here in terms of bycatch,” Stewart. “We saw some very large reductions.”  
Political appointees will decide the actual catch limit. But the scientists’ announcement makes it less likely that families will be forced to leave St. Paul this school year.  
(Reporting from St. Paul Island made possible in part by a grant from the Institute for Journalism and Natural Resources.) 
Dec 11 2015
KIB Assembly Decides on Potential Forest Consultant for Damage Assessment in Chiniak PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 11 December 2015
Kayla Desroches/KMXT

The Kodiak Island Borough Assembly is in the process of determining how to approach the roughly 800 acres affected by the Twin Creeks Fire. At its work session last night it reviewed timber assessment proposals from three different forest consultants.

Borough Manager Bud Cassidy introduced the topic.  

“When we last talked about this, the assembly wasn’t willing to just leap into a timber cruise and maybe an appraisal, so what you did discuss is maybe doing what we call appraisal light. That we get really an assessment of damage done out in Chiniak if the trees are all dead or there’s certain ones alive. Those kind of things.”

According to a document in the agenda packet which detailed the scope of work for the assessment, it would include the percentage of spruce trees that suffered crown, base, and root damage and the percentage and location of areas within the property that escaped fire damage.

The borough’s resource management officer, Duane Dvorak, has been in charge of speaking with the consultants and said the desired service would be a damage assessment, not a determination of the volume and value of the timber on borough property.

“Basically, they would be looking at the condition of the trees, the damage of the trees. They go through on a systematic basis. They make observations of the trees that they see at various points as they go through the site.”

He said the priciest of the three possible consultants most closely approaches a tree census.
“They’re looking for signs of life, they’re looking for areas that maybe may be preserved, and they were gonna map those areas and call those out [in] a very detailed fashion. The other two proposals are more consistent with what I thought this assembly was asking for, which is kind of a quick survey through there looking in very general terms about the conditions.”

Dvorak said, according to borough code, there are only certain situations that allow the borough the power to harvest or sell timber.

“And that is fire, windthrow, insects, or clearing of right of ways. It’s spelled out in 1870. There’s only just a very few narrow categories that we can even contemplate a timber sale, but when we do, we have to having a cruising and appraisal. It’s a requirement of the code.”

Assemblyman Mel Stephens spoke about the three consultant options and said he liked that NorthWind Forest Consultants was experienced in forest health assessments.

“And frankly, a forest health assessment to me is different from a fire damage assessment. I mean, I’m interested in not simply where the damage is and what the extent of it is, but given the extent of the damage that we have, what is the likelihood of the forest coming back if we do not log it?”

Assemblyman Dan Rohrer spoke in favor of NorthWind and its proposal.

“Honestly, that’s what I was looking for. I was looking for somebody who said, hey, you know what, I’ll come up here, I’m not just gonna rely on satellite imagery. I’m gonna walk through it. He specifically references actual percentages of spruce trees with root and crown damage and trees that may have escaped damage from the initial fire, so there is at least some quantitative component to it. It’s in a price range that I am fairly comfortable with.”

He also pointed out the company met with the assembly twice to answer its questions.

The assembly agreed Dvorak should speak further with NorthWind and that the borough assembly and staff would go from there.

The assembly will hold a special work session Tuesday to discuss the preliminary fiscal year 2017 budget and it will hold its next regular meeting Thursday.
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